Policy update - Working closely with Government

Policy wordThe first six months of this year have been busy for the policy team.

The Government has been consulting with stakeholders on Specialist Dementia Care Units (SDCU), a budget commitment they made in 2016. The units are expected to support people who experience very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia. The Government has committed to establishing at least one SDCU in each of the 31 Primary Health Network regions. 

Dementia Australia has been advocating on behalf of people living with dementia and their families and carers throughout this process. Our key messaging focused on a cautious approach to the planning and implementation of these units as well as a need to ensure ongoing education and training in behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Significantly, we have had correspondence from the Federal Minister for Aged Care, The Hon. Ken Wyatt MP, acknowledging our concerns, as well as assuring us of his commitment to protecting the rights of consumers and ensuring the welfare of people living with dementia is the highest priority in the establishment of these units. 

We have also provided a submission to the inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia, being conducted by the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport. 

This is the third inquiry into the residential aged care system. Dementia Australia has provided strong submissions drawn from consumer input to all these inquiries, and has also seen some positive results of our advocacy. 

The report from the independent ministerial review heavily cites our submission, and we were pleased to note the review has incorporated several of our suggestions in their final recommendations to Government. 

Importantly, the Government has already moved to enforce unannounced accreditation visits across residential aged care. The 2018-19 budget also included many measures that Dementia Australia has called for, including establishment of the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission from 2019. The commission will be supported by other significant measures such as $50 million for a Quality Care Fund, $32.6 million to enhance the regulation of aged care provider quality, and $8.8 million to improve the transparency of information on aged care provider quality.

We are also encouraged to note progress around Elder Abuse made in 2017. The latest budget responds to key recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Report into elder abuse and implements a national response on elder abuse and promoting older people’s safety. The funding will increase specialist front-line services to support older people and their families seeking help with elder abuse. It includes expansion and evaluation of elder abuse service trials, including specialist elder abuse units, family counselling and mediation services, and health-justice partnerships. 

The Government has also set aside funding to work with the States and Territories to establish a National Online Register for Enduring Powers of Attorney. This is very welcome funding in an area that Dementia Australia has been very active in.

The Policy team also participated in and facilitated a series of consumer roundtables with Federal Opposition Leader The Hon. Bill Shorten MP in 2017. The roundtables, held in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, culminated in a speech given by Mr Shorten at the Brain and Mind Centre in December where he highlighted his vision for improved dementia care. 

Mr Shorten shared his position and commitment to the growing health issue, saying tackling dementia is our generation’s duty and it is the defining health care and aged care challenge of the next 20 years. We continue to work with all sides of Government to ensure the voices of people living with dementia, their families and carers are heard.